Republican David Duke is among 24 candidates who qualified for Louisiana's U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Sen. David Vitter, R-La.(Photo: Greg Hilburn, The (Monroe, La.) News-Star)
Longtime white supremacist David Duke has qualified to share the stage in the final Senate candidate debate in Louisiana.
Democrats immediately seized upon the invitation as fundraising fodder. Duke, a Republican, hit the threshold of 5% of projected votes in an independent poll.
Raycom Media — which operates WVUE-TV, New Orleans; WAFB-TV, Baton Rouge; KPLC-TV, Lake Charles; and KSLA, Shreveport — commissioned the poll to determine who would be permitted to participate in the Nov. 2 televised debate.
Republicans Charles Boustany, John Fleming and John Kennedy and Democrats Foster Campbell and Caroline Fayard are the others who qualified. Those five appeared Tuesday on the Louisiana Public Broadcasting-Council for a Better Louisiana statewide TV debate at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. Its criteria were at least 5% support in an independent poll and at least $1 million campaign money raised.
Louisiana's election system is rare among U.S. states. Since 1978, it has had no primary elections to determine nominees for each party with a brief exception in 2008.
Instead, all of the candidates who have qualified for a statewide office are on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. This year, 24 candidates have filed to replace Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who decided not to seek re-election.
If no one receives at least 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will face off in a Dec. 10 runoff.
The Louisiana Democratic Party sent a an email Thursday night asking for donations, noting that Duke previously served as a Ku Klux Klan leader.
"Help us right now to stop this man and retire him to the history books," the email read.
Duke, 66, is a former imperial wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and has been involved in white supremacist causes since high school. He served one partial term as a member of the Louisiana House, winning a special election in 1989 and subsequent runoff but choosing to run in 1990 for U.S. Senate.
Raycom's poll, conducted Monday to Wednesday, asked 625 registered voters across the state who they would vote for if the election were today. It showed:
• Kennedy, Louisiana's state treasurer, leading with 24.2%• Campbell, a member of the Public Service Commission, at 18.9%• Fayard, a New Orleans lawyer, with 12%• Boustany, the 3rd District congressman, at 11.4%• Fleming, the 4th District congressman, at 10.2%• Duke at 5.1%.
Republican Rob Maness was the only other candidate who broke 1% at 3.4%.
Follow Greg Hilburn on Twitter: @GregHilburn1